Thursday, April 21, 2022

The Tome of Beasts and Freeport

For my past columns about using D&D Fifth Edition sourcebooks with Freeport: The City of Adventure, see the Freeport 5E Index. 

The Tome of Beasts is a collection of new monsters for D&D Fifth Edition published by Kobold Press. A diverse selection of monsters from that bestiary are showcased in the Book of Lairs from the same publisher. I first encountered the Book of Lairs in a used bookstore, and found it intriguing enough to seek out the Tome of Beasts

Tome of Beasts

At 430 pages, this creature collection is too large to give an in-depth treatment in a single blog post, but I wanted to highlight some content that seems especially appropriate for campaigns set in the World of Freeport. 

Several monster entries reference Kobold Press's Midgard campaign setting, but these monsters can be used in any D&D setting with minimal changes. For example, one of the new languages introduced here is Void Speech, which is spoken by creatures originating in, or influenced by, "the Outer Darkness." The sidebar about it suggests that any ancient language with an evil reputation can be substituted. This sounds a great deal like the Aklo language, spoken by aberrations and evil fey in the Pathfinder RPG, which is in turn drawn from Cthulhu Mythos literature--and, in fact, Aklo is a common language among Pathfinder's Lovecraftian monsters, just as Void Speech is among the Mythos creatures presented in the Tome of Beasts. Deep Speech fills a similar niche in the core 5E rules, but Void Speech is presented here as a distinct language.

Speaking of the Cthulhu Mythos, this book presents several creatures suitable for enhancing that element of the Freeport setting. Deep ones easily could be encountered in or near Freeport, having infiltrated the city or parts of the Serpent's Teeth. The folk of Leng are accomplished travelers, but would probably avoid Freeport in favor of its hated enemy Mazin due to their trade in slaves. More exotic monsters (gugs, mi-go, shoggoths, spiders of Leng, and star-spawn of Cthulhu) would be found in  more distant lands or other worlds, but are frequently sought out by the kinds of mad cultists who plague the City of Adventure.

The Tome contains numerous monsters that could be encountered in Freeport itself or the waters around it. Many new snakes and other reptiles--a defining feature of the Serpent's Teeth region--are included, and the Villain Codex appendix includes a variety of humanoid foes. GMs wishing to further explore The Ironjack Legacy will find a wealth of new constructs, including many types of clockworks. Fabulous aquatic creatures, such as sea dragons, krake spawn, and zaratans, are also well represented here.

Fey in the Serpent's Teeth are almost exclusively reptilian, but other types can be found in the wider World of Freeport, particularly in Rolland, the forest kingdom of the elves on the Continent. The shadow fey elves, and the fey lords and ladies who rule them, are most commonly encountered on the Plane of Shadow (known as the Shadowfell in official 5E sources). This plane likely has links to the Feywild and fey-touched regions of the Material Plane (such as Rolland). The legendary Lord Bonewrack, who dwells in Shadow Freeport, might very well be a powerful shadow fey elf.

This book also contains a wide variety of desert-dwelling creatures suitable for encounters in Hamunaptra (see Egyptian Adventures: Hamunaptra). Many of these even have a strong Egyptian flavor to them, such as the shabti, subek, and a few new mummy-like undead. In the World of Freeport, the Nurian language mentioned in those entries would correspond to the common tongue of Hamunaptra. 

Monsters inspired by Norse myths (einheriar, jotun giant, ice maiden, lindwurm, rattatosk, rusalka, and valkyrie) would be appropriate for the Viking-like land of Druzhdin, in the far north of the Continent.

The imperial ghouls might be a holdover of the power of the ancient Necro-Kings, driven (literally) underground following those undead warlords' defeat. (See the "Beyond Freeport" chapter in either The Pirate's Guide to Freeport or the Pathfinder edition of Freeport: The City of Adventure.) The ghoul god Mordiggian, mentioned in the "Lords Subterranean" sidebar, gets a chapter in Cults of Freeport.

Finally, some of these creatures can be used for converting monsters from past Freeport adventures or bestiaries, either as-is, or as a starting point:

  • Bastet Temple Cat: Malkin (Creatures of Freeport, Freeport Bestiary)
  • Blemmyes: Blemmyae (3rd Era Freeport CompanionFreeport Bestiary)
  • Clockwork Abomination: Infernal Automaton (Hell in Freeport, Freeport Bestiary)
  • Clockwork Beetle: Goldbug (Freeport: The City of Adventure, both editions)
  • Dopplerat: Doubling Rat (The Lost Island)
  • Gearforged Templar: Manikin (Hell in Freeport)
  • Golem, Hoard: Treasure Golem (Black Sails Over Freeport)
  • Ratfolk: Ratfolk (mentioned in Freeport: The City of Adventure, Pathfinder edition)
  • Ravenfolk: Tengu (Return to Freeport)
  • White Ape: White Gorilla (Black Sails Over Freeport)

Book of Lairs

This book contains two dozen monster lairs, arranged by increasing character level, from 1st to 15th. Each entry is 4 pages long, with one page being a full-color map of the lair. The lairs are a very diverse collection, including numerous dungeons but also city buildings, underwater spaces, forest camps, and a handful of truly exotic locations (stairs going miles up a steep mountainside; a citadel on the edge of space; and even the branches of Yggdrasil). All stand completely on their own, but a few form logical sequels to earlier lairs (such as the stairs and citadel just mentioned). A few of the inhabitants of these  lairs appear in the Monster Manual, but most are pulled from the Tome of Beasts, making that book necessary in order to use these short adventures, unless the DM wishes to repopulate the maps themselves.

A few of the lairs are set in cities, and could be adapted easily for use in Freeport. Others, such as The Pirate's Cove or Temple of the Deep Ones, could be hidden elsewhere in the Serpent's Teeth with little effort. 

Most of the other lairs would best be set on the Continent, or even further away. The forest lairs seem most appropriate to Rolland, while the desert lairs would fit Kizmir or Hamunaptra. The two ghoul adventures could be set almost anywhere in the Underdark, but the DM should give some thought to how the Ghoul Imperium fits into the World of Freeport (see my suggestion above about the Necro-Kings).

Overall, the lairs in this book seem to be interesting short adventures suitable for dropping into a campaign whenever the DM wants a brief change of pace from the regular campaign (or just shorter chapters in a campaign that is largely a series of modules). Most should be playable in a single session, though some higher-level adventures might take longer due to featuring more complex foes. 

Thursday, March 3, 2022

My Starfinder Society Minis and Artwork

Zefira Lachlan (L) and Boomer (R)

Last month, I shared some updates to my artwork and LEGO minis for my Pathfinder Society characters, and this time I will present my Starfinder Society character's minis. I have only drawn portraits for two of these SFS PCs, so will include those here rather than splitting them off into a separate post as I did for my PFS artwork. The capsule descriptions below are roughly in the order that I started playing these characters.

Zefira Lachlan (current)

Zefira Lachlan is a daredevil operative with the ace pilot theme. She was the first SFS character I ever played, and is still the highest-level one (10th). She is human, a choice that I made entirely because she was an attempt to recreate my Serenity RPG pilot character in a new system. This Zefira's story has unfolded very differently in a universe that features easy FTL travel, widespread magic use, and hundreds of sentient alien species! She is still a hotshot pilot and a gambler, but has diversified into mastering other forms of movement, high-tech hacking and repair skills, and first contact encounters. 

Zefira started out with the lightest possible armor, so the first minis I built for her used Catwoman's costume and similar bodysuits. (The version at the top of this page uses the Jewel Thief from Minifigures Series 15.) Jessica Alba's look in Dark Angel was my photo reference for both Zefiras, so I gave her a light caramel head and long black hair. She has since upgraded to much better armor (though still light and maneuverable), and I've added a helmet now that she has a jetpack (the latter is Jango Fetts's, from the Star Wars theme). Her current body armor belongs to Proxima Midnight, from the Marvel Avengers line. In a recent column, I briefly complained about the tendency of female minifigures to be cartoonishly sexualized, but this armor's print job does a decent job of making her gender apparent without going overboard--precisely the balance I wanted for Zefira.


B-M-R Mk II, known as "Boomer" among their fellow Starfinders, is a nonbinary android technomancer with the scholar theme. When not conducting astronomical surveys or performing repairs and maintenance on Society equipment, they work as a lawyer representing the Society's interests (and those of other androids). They have blue hair with some silver streaks, and some of the glowing blue circuits on their face form runes that serve as their spell cache. (This coloring might have been inspired by her faction leader, who is also a blue-haired android, but if so it wasn't deliberate--I only became truly familiar with Historia-7 much later, once I started GMing for SFS.)

I chose the Galaxy Patrol body (Minifigures Series 7; see the top of this page) because the dark blue with silver accents complemented Boomer's own coloring, and the torso has a tiny "WIZ" printed on its chest. The mini has the Cyborg's head and hair (Series 16), and a neck bracket that holds a 1x1 tile from a microscale Star Wars snowspeeder to suggest the jump jets installed in their suit.

Voran Eclipse

Voran Eclipse is a copaxi, an alien race whose individual members are each composed of a coral-like colonial organism. Because of this, Voran prefers "they" pronouns, but unlike with Boomer, the plural "they" is implied. They are a solarian with the xenoseeker theme, and manifest a solar weapon in the shape of a jagged blade of violet energy, which I've represented by a trans-blue and purple lightning bolt (Star Wars and other themes). Voran's body is a Berserker (one of Hela's minions; Marvel) with slightly spiky Ninjago shoulder plates added. Copaxi do not have faces, per se, so this alien's lightly textured head is turned backwards, with its fangs covered by Maleficent's headdress (Disney Minifigures). This last piece provides the distinctive antlers possessed by all copaxi. Since this picture was taken, Voran has started using a riot shield, for which I use a trans-cyan oval shield (like Qimok's, below) for a science fiction look. Voran actually wears heavy armor, but I prefer to emphasize their copaxi features for their mini.

Copaxi were originally made available for play through a boon earned from playing the scenario that introduced them, but three seasons later, this race is now available for play without a boon. I also earned the race boon for my skittermander Qimok (see below) before that race was made freely available to all. Tekeli-li and Euphemia (also below) belong to races that still require boons, either earned by playing certain scenarios (as I did) or purchased with Achievement Points.


Toknomonicon is a gnome envoy with the icon theme. He is a famous musician who uses his celebrity to help polish the Starfinder Society's image, and in return his missions inspire new compositions. As both a feychild gnome and a lay devotee of Shelyn and Arshea, Tokno prefers flamboyant clothing, decorated with feathers and sashes in many colors. He also dyes his hair to match. His mini's orange torso is from a LEGO Universe astronaut; the starburst makes a decent substitute for the Starfinder Society's compass rose. His headpiece is a version of Wyldstyle's striped hair with attached goggles (The LEGO Movie).

Toknomonicon and Tune-Bot 2000

I made Tokno a musician largely because of the "Toon-Bot 2000" boon, which gives him a robot that plays musical accompaniment. It's a largely silly but colorful boon, so despite the Tune-Bot having no stat block, I built one by adding transparent 1x1 pyramids to a boom box. A 1x1 cylinder atop a 2x2 radar dish makes it appear to hover.

Tokno on Wanda

Wanda (from the back)

On a recent adventure, Tokno successfully used his envoy abilities to befriend an alien animal used as a guard beast by the cruel jinsul, while traveling with another Starfinder who had an animal companion mount. This experience inspired him to acquire a companion of his own (and me to look up and learn the animal companion rules). Wanda is a wolliped, a large furry beast with eight legs, four eyes, and large tusks. She is a brick-built model, scaled to fit a 2" x 2" (6 x 6 studs) base. She has a space on her back for Tokno to sit, and a slope brick to suggest a saddle, but I was unable to build a deep recess like a riding animal minifigure would have. (Fortunately, Tokno has short legs!)


Tekeli-li is a kiirinta, a small moth-like fey species. He is a star shaman mystic and priest of Desna who tends to a small flock of her worshipers on Absalom Station. (The new "pretty space moth" portrait of Desna in Galactic Magic just makes this choice of god even more perfect for him!) Tekeli-li's head is from one of the insectoid aliens from the Galaxy Squad theme; his torso is from the Alien Trooper (Minifigures Series 13) and his wings are Butterfly Girl's (Series 17). His name's origin is explained here.


Qimok is a skittermander soldier with the armor storm fighting style and the gladiator theme. He was trained as a gladiator, but his species' compulsion to help others led him to find work with the Starfinders as protection for the less durable members of a mission's team. Qimok's mini is built around the torso and back assembly from an Outrider alien (Marvel Avengers). This gives him the six arms of a skittermander, though the placement precludes putting second hands on his doshko (a spiked polearm) and laser rifle. He holds a shield in one hand, leaving his sixth hand free to grab, punch, or help, as needed. (Sadly, I forget the source of the head, as I bought it as an individual part, but I believe it is a Ninjago monster. The toothy grin seemed right for a skittermander.)

Euphemia Lasro

Euphemia Lasro is a pahtra, a feline humanoid species. She is an explorer operative and has the spacefarer theme, so is eager to explore new planets and systems for the Society, and is trained to survive in the wilderness. Euphemia was originally inspired by Captain Amelia from Treasure Planet, and I use some 3D artwork of that character for her token in online SFS games. I've only very recently started playing her, so had not built a mini for her until I was preparing for this column. My collection lacked a satisfactory match to Amelia's uniform (despite owning numerous Pirates, Armada, and Pirates of the Caribbean minifigs), but Zori Bliss's body (Star Wars) provided female light armor with enough gold accents to give a similar effect. I added epaulets as a final military touch. Her head is a Lion Tribe character (Legends of Chima) and her hair is a werewolf's (Minifigures Series 4). The rifle is a common Star Wars weapon.

The last three characters here are new, and have not yet debuted in Society play. They are in the wings for when I need to start playing a new 1st-level character, once Tekeli-li, Qimok, and Euphemia (all currently 2nd level) advance out of the lowest subtier. Because of this, their minis, like Euphemia's, are mere days old at the time of this writing.

(L to R): Glaukos, Z'Kar, Talgoth

Glaukos is a stellifera, a psychic cuttlefish-like species who can create a "hydrobody" around themselves for both protection and to allow them to use larger species' equipment (including armor and weapons). Glaukos is a mechanic with an experimental armor prototype and the sensate theme. I will probably give him the phrenic adept archetype at 2nd level, to enhance his race's inborn psychic abilities--which will make him my first Starfinder PC (for Society or not) with an archetype. His bulky space armor (a combination of the Toy Robot, Minifigures Series 6, and Space Miner, Series 12) is topped by a squid-like Alien Trooper head (Series 13), in an attempt to suggest that the Diminutive stellifera is occupying the "head" of a hydrobody wearing the armor. He wields a flame pistol, so I attached the hose from Hazmat Guy's sprayer (Series 4) to the stud on the back of his armor.

Z'Kar is a vesk vanguard. She has the stormrunner theme, so most of her skills are devoted to surviving the harsh climate of her home planet. Her entropic strike class feature makes a manufactured melee weapon less mandatory, so she spent most of her starting credits on the best (light) armor a 1st-level character could afford. She carries a cheap pistol, a few tools, and not much else. As a cave vesk, Z'Kar has pale scales, so I've used a white-skinned Ninjago pirate's head; the printed mask and the helmet help hide the fact that I don't have any better parts for a near-albino reptilian character. Her body is Falcon's (Marvel Avengers), and the "power blast" piece used to suggest her entropic strike's energy is Frozone's (Disney Minifigures, Series 2).

I created Talgoth as an exercise in building a PC with the new precog class in Galactic Magic. He is a half-orc with the cultist theme, hailing from the drow homeworld of Apostae, where he was raised by a blasphemous cult that attempted to sacrifice him to their patron. He should have died then, but instead had visions of the cult's god awakening, and manifested precog powers that allowed him to escape. He now tries to stay far, far away from the drow, and seeks an answer to how the doom he foresaw can be averted. For now, the Starfinder Society seems as good a place as any to do both. As a starting character whose most noteworthy abilities are ephemeral powers, his mini is very simple: light space armor (I forget the theme this torso is from), a LOTR orc head and hair, a hunting rifle, and a knife.

(Previous "Let Me Tell You About My Character..." columns are indexed here.)

TBT: Misuhiro Yoko, a character for BESM

The following Big Eyes Small Mouth character was based on a minor background character from Revolutionary Girl Utena. She was originally posted to a RPG-related LiveJournal group (that I have since lost the name of) back in 2004. 


Possible Utena Character: Misuhiro Yoko

This character was inspired by the shadow-puppet girls in Revolutionary Girl Utena, with the UFO/alien theme being played up in the latest episodes I've seen (I'm up to #29). I don't know how well she would fit into an Utena game, but if I end up playing in the game a friend of mine plans to run, this is the character I'll propose first.

Note: Because I don't own the BESM Utena book, Yoko was built with BESM 2E Revised, using Teen Romance costs for skills.

Misuhiro Yoko, Ohtomi Academy student, Grade 8 (25 CP)

Stats: Body 4, Mind 7, Soul 4 (15 CP)
Derived Values: ACV 5, DCV 3, HP 40, EP 55, SV 8

Attributes: Appearance 1 (1 CP), Art of Distraction 2 (2 CP), Highly Skilled 1 (1 CP), Own a Big Mecha 2 (Flying Saucer, 25 MP) (5 CP), Personal Gear 1 (1 CP), Shape Change 2 (Change gender only) (3 CP).

Defects: Nemesis (Kiryuu Nanami) (1 BP), Skeleton in the Closet (Alien posing as human) (1 BP), Special Requirement (Lay an egg once a month) (1 BP).

Skills: Biological Sciences 1 (Botany) (2 SP), Disguise 1 (Make-up) (2 SP), Linguistics 2 (Alien [native], English, Japanese) (4 SP), Mechanics 1 (Aeronautics) (3 SP), Melee Attack 1 (Sword) (5 SP), Melee Defend 1 (Sword) (5 SP), Performing Arts 1 (Comedy; Dance) (5 SP), Physical Sciences 1 (Astronomy) (2 SP), Piloting 1 (Spacecraft) (2 SP).

OBM: Flying Saucer (25 MP): HP 60.
Attributes: A.I. 1 (Basic Remote Control: Egg) (1 MP), Extra Capacity 1 (1 MP), Flight 4 (16 MP), Heavy Armor 1 (4 MP), Space Flight 1 (2 MP), Summonable 1 (4 MP), Toughness 1 (4 MP).
Defects: Awkward Size 1 (1 MBP), No Arms (2 MBP), Poor Maneuverability 2 (2 MBP), Restricted Ground Movement (None) (2 MBP), Summoning Object (Egg) (1 MBP).

Personal Gear: fencing sword and protective gear; alien "egg" amulet (summons and controls OBM).

Yoko is a human-like alien who came to Earth about a year ago. She has no training at navigation, and her old, hand-me-down saucer is notoriously clumsy, so she soon crash-landed. She decided that enrolling in the school would be the perfect cover while she repaired her spaceship. She has managed to be assigned to a mostly abandoned building, with space to summon and work on her saucer; she has fixed the crash damage, but has not solved the ship's shaky handling, so dares not leave the relative safety of her new home.

Yoko is an excellent student, who has joined the theater and fencing clubs. She is fairly well-liked, in spike of Nanami-san tormenting her for being "weird"--but Nanami has yet to guess just how weird she really is! As an adolescent member of her alien race, Yoko lays a boldly patterned egg once a month; she can usually hide this process (and the resulting day or two of reduced energy) under the cover of "the monthly miracle." In Episode #27: "Nanami's Egg," Yoko may be responsible for the egg Nanami found; she hoped it would mess with her rival's gullible mind. The eggs are not fertile unless Yoko mates with one of her own kind, and she is not aware of any others currently living on Earth. Her saucer's remote is modeled after one of her eggs, but is far less delicate.

Yoko has one other alien power that she rarely uses, and never where she could be seen: Her species is able to switch gender at will (except when laying eggs). Her male form looks like a nearly identical twin, and she will claim to be her brother "Ryo" if seen in that form. (However, no "Misuhiro Ryo" is enrolled at Ohtori Academy, so "he" must vanish quickly if questioned.) She usually carries a boy's uniform in her duffel if she foresees any need to use this ability.


I never did get an opportunity to play Yoko in BESM. However, she did form the starting point for a NPC I created for "Grey Angels," the long-running Buffy/Angel series that I joined soon after that original post. In that game, she was an international student from Japan, who was shy and awkward but a genius with math and science. Her secret was that she was a half-Byblos demon (a knowledge-seeking race from the Angel RPG) who had been stranded in this dimension and was trying to reestablish contact with her people. At one point, she managed to rope the superscientist player character into helping her traipse all over campus (and beyond), taking readings with some weird sensory apparatus of her own design, but I don't recall her story ever getting much further than that. 

Since that game, I've read Neil Gaiman's surreal short story "How to Talk to Girls at Parties" (and more recently, the Dark Horse comic adaptation). If I ever use Yoko in another game, I expect that story to exert some influence on her, too.

The current "reunion arc" of "Grey Angels" has allowed me to revisit Yoko's story indirectly: I have introduced an NPC who is the daughter that Yoko left behind when she left for parts unknown 13 years ago. Sakura Masterson has been fun to play so far, and will likely be one of my main PCs for the "next gen" game we've been bantering about as a way to continue using the setting after the current crises are resolved.

And yes, I did finish watching Revolutionary Girl Utena not long after I finished that original post above. It's a bizarre series that gradually builds up to one of the weirdest climaxes of any anime I've ever seen, but I recall enjoying it, even the inexplicable nonsense parts of it. My "Grey Angels" character Trick Tillinghast, a fencer with a pronounced romantic streak, was very much a fan, and even dressed up as Utena for her masquerade-themed high school prom. In retrospect, her strong affinity with that character should have been a clue--one of many!--that she was not quite as straight as both she and I originally thought. But, hey, it took Utena a while to get there, too, and both were happier once they did.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

"Let Me Tell You About My Character..." (An Index)

Abe Sapien (used for my Buffy RPG character
Baz Olmstead when in Triton form)

The following pages are devoted to stories, artwork, and miniatures for my own player characters in various RPGs. They do not include the snippets of character info buried in my RPGaDay, Drawloween, and Inktober posts (except for those on Trick's personal index page), nor do they include PCs or NPCs from games I've GMed.

D&D 5E

Taphos (1/13/2016): Converted to 5E from a friend's homebrew RPG system.

Lendri (1/28/2016): Converted to 5E from a friend's homebrew RPG system.

Grey Angels (Buffy/Angel/Fate)

Nightwatch Dossier: Patricia "Trick" Tillinghast (started 4/17/2020): This page is an index for columns about my PC, Trick Tillinghast, and the "Grey Angels" campaign in general.

Pathfinder Society

How do you go about creating a character for play? (8/30/2018): Uses some of my PFS PCs as examples.

Cassilda Tillinghast (11/13/2018): Art, stats, and bio for my first psychic caster PC.

Pathfinder Iconics Minis (12/5/2018): LEGO minis of the iconic characters for each core class.

A Baker's Dozen of Pathfinders (2/5/2019): Artwork and capsule bios of my PFS characters.

Pathfinder Society LEGO Minis (3/16/2020): Minis for my PFS characters (including new additions since 2019).

"Clever" Character Names Often...Aren't (2/9/2022): Origins of a few of my PFS & SFS PCs' names.

Pathfinder Society Minis and Artwork Update (2/23/2022): Some new artwork, plus my PFS 2E characters' minis.

Pathfinder (other campaigns)

The "Dungeon Interludes" Party (11/3/2016): LEGO minis for one of my wife's campaigns.

Starfinder Society

"Clever" Character Names Often...Aren't (2/9/2022): Origins of a few of my PFS & SFS PCs' names.

My Starfinder Society Minis and Artwork (3/3/2022): Bios and LEGO minis for my SFS PCs to date.

Pathfinder Society Minis and Artwork Update

A few years ago now, I shared the portraits I'd drawn of my Pathfinder Society characters, along with capsule bios of each one. A year later, I shared photos of the LEGO minis I'd made for those characters, with a few new characters who had debuted since that previous post. I plan to do a similar article about my Starfinder Society characters sometime soon, but for now, I'm going to update two of those PFS First Edition PCs, then introduce the handful of PFS Second Edition characters I've created so far.

First Edition Pathfinder Updates

Very few of the minis for my 1E characters have required updating. K'Chaw's mini (tengu cavalier) has a new helmet, and Volutus's (sylph druid) has a new face, but only two PCs received substantial mini makeovers and/or new art. 

Cassilda Tillinghast

Cassilda Tillinghast (human mindblade magus) received a second portrait almost 2 years ago (see above). She can now manifest two psychic weapons at once, so I felt the need to depict that. I haven't updated her mini yet, but may do so whenever I get to play her in an in-person game again. 

Thanks to rapid advancement through two adventure paths, Falling Rock (Shoanti human ranger/fighter) soon surpassed my other characters in power, and has been retired at 19th level. (There is one more PFS scenario that we could legally play with those characters, taking them to 20th, but it's a multi-table special that can only be run at a con. And it's a fairly old one, so we may be waiting quite a long time before demand for it reaches critical mass again.) Falling Rock continued to get even scarier with his trusty earth breaker, and ended play with a +5 impact impervious merciful adamantine weapon. He also acquired mithral full plate very early in his career, which required a dramatic rebuild of his mini: he kept the old head, but he wears a Castle/Kingdom knight's armor, a Roman legionnaire's helmet (chosen to leave his face visible), and his new earth breaker is built around a fist/hammer piece from (IIRC) the Legend of Chima theme.

Falling Rock

I have also drawn a quick B&W sketch of Falling Rock in his new armor, charging forward with his weapon raised.

Falling Rock

Second Edition Pathfinders

I have played three characters in PFS 2E so far, and may be debuting my fourth in a month or two. I have not yet drawn portraits for any of them, but the active ones all have LEGO minis, and I built a mini for the newest character while writing this column. 

Thibdab (goblin redeemer champion of Sarenrae) has advanced several levels since he made an appearance at the end of my previous PFS minis column. He retains his original head (Goblin, Minifigures Series 13), sword (Prince of Persia), and shield (Wonder Woman), but now wears platemail (plain light gray breastplate, torso, and short legs).  Much like Falling Rock above, Thibdab's new samurai helmet was chosen because it leaves his face visible--he is, after all, a goblin champion, and should be identifiable as one. His first knight-master (K'Chaw, my 1E tengu cavalier) is from Tian Xia, so his headgear is a nod to that, too.

Thibdab has also acquired a wolf mount, which he named Kazaam! (the "!" is part of the name). The wolf started out Small, so was a more of a trained companion than a mount, but is now Medium and thus large enough to bear Thibdab into battle (though he's faster without a heavily-armored goblin on his back). Most of my time playing Thibdab has been online due to Covid, so I was able to use an image of a gray LEGO warg as his wolf's Roll20 token. The warg is far too large for in-person play, so I have a LEGO dog and a goblin microfigure for when Thibdab is mounted. A couple of 1x1 plates with clips hold a shield (from the Aztec Warrior, Minifigures Series 7) and sword (a non-LEGO scimitar), and the microfigure wears the magic helmet from the Heroica theme. 

Thibdab, afoot (L) and mounted on Kazaam! (R)

Millicent Velarno is a human sorceress with the hag bloodline. This photo inspired her look--all black, with a cloak and hood, and dramatic, spooky eye makeup--and still serves as her token on Roll20. I got a chance to play her in person at a local con last summer, so she needed a mini then. She wears a witch's black torso (Minifigures Series 2), plain black legs (more practical than skirts), a cloth Batman cape, and a black hood. Her head is Tonto's, from the very short-lived The Lone Ranger theme. Here, with only the makeup visible, Depp's highly controversial racial caricature has been repurposed for a more acceptable "goth witch" look. Since I built this mini, she has acquired a demon mask, which she wears constantly to make herself even more intimidating. I have a couple of monstrous Ninjago masks (the Thunder Keeper and the Omega oni) that I keep with her mini in case I decide the scary mask needs more attention.

Millicent Velarno (L) and Xathel (R)

Xathel is an elf investigator, with a bit of rogue. (I chose an elf heritage that allows a multiclassing archetype at 1st level, and rogue added even more to his long list of trained skills.) His body is that of a Mirkwood elf, but he has Bruce Banner's head (for the green eyes) and Zan/Jayna's hairpiece (The Batman Movie Minifigures). He wears a brown cape matching his elven garb, and wields a shortsword (Sting, from LOTR/Hobbit sets). 

My brand-new, unplayed 1st-level PC for 2E is Grazga, a half-orc summoner who belongs to the (mostly human) Sarkorian tribes, whose ancestral homeland was devastated by a demonic incursion. The resulting Worldwound has been recently healed (during one of the last adventure paths released for 1E), and now some of her people are working to reclaim those lands with help from the Pathfinders and other allies. Grazga is one of her tribe's spiritual leaders, known as "god-callers," who are bonded to eidolons considered to be minor divinities. Her companion is Dontorex, who looks like a feathered dinosaur. 

Grazga's mini uses one of the old "tribal warrior" bodies from the Old West theme, with the light brown hands and head from a Star Wars alien, and long, loose hair from a Hobbit theme dwarf. Her cape is red on one side and tan on the other, turned drab side out for camouflage. (Sadly, I forget the source for this piece, as it's one of the few non-monochrome capes I own.) I would have preferred a more brightly-colored, more dinosaur-like mini for Dontorex, but ended up compromising with a Vampire Bat torso (Minifigures Series 8), which comes with small wings attached to the arms. To preserve the color scheme, I used Bytar's head (a Constrictai Serpentine character from Ninjago). 

Grazga (L) and Dontorex (R)

Sunday, February 20, 2022

LEGO Minifigures Series 22


(See Tim's LEGO Reviews for my reviews of past LEGO Minifigures series.)

Series 22 of the collectible LEGO Minifigures line was released at the beginning of this year, and I finally managed to acquire several earlier this month. As with Series 21, this set only totals 12 characters, rather than the 16 that most older series tallied. I currently own 9 of the 12; the other three are marked with asterisks below, and my comments on them will be briefer. 

Bird Watcher: This avian enthusiast seems a bit unassuming at first, but she has four pieces cast in multiple colors of plastic: a teal hat with black ponytail; a torso with short-sleeved black shirt; legs with dark brown boots and light brown pants; and the toucan (which, as far as I can tell, is cast in three colors: black, white, and yellow!). Her two-sided head is fairly typically "girly" and the torso has the usual printed arcs to suggest a narrower waist, but the shirt notably lacks any bust definition. Ever since the introduction of corset-clad wenches in the original Pirates theme, the designs of far too many female minifigures have suffered from a weird sort of fixation on the details of their chests. This character's more gender-neutral clothing is a welcome change--and it has pockets! 

The other female-presenting characters in this series also avoid being oversexualized. The two costume fans and the much younger groom don't even have the waist-narrowing arcs printed on their torso. The Night Protector does, but she's clad in armor that, while ornate, offers sensible coverage.

*Chili Costume Fan: This woman may be sweating from the bulk of her costume or from eating some hot chili peppers (or both), but she has a carton of milk to help offset the latter problem. Like the Banana Suit Guy in Series 16, the main costume piece won't have many uses other than a costume or as the actual fruit represented, so it's not very useful for parts for RPG miniatures.

*Figure Skating Champion: This character has a glittery blue and purple costume, a poofy blonde 'do, figure skates, and a trophy. His outfit matches his female counterpart's (from way back in Series 4) but hers was much more interesting. 

Forest Elf: This is easily the most adorable character in this series. The elf comes with short posable legs and a double-sided child-like face, and wears an acorn cap, an oak leaf-shaped cloth cape, and a torso printed to suggest a veined leaf. The printed belt (and fanny pack, under the cape) are also decorated with minute oak leaves and an acorn buckle. A walking stick and a smiling mushroom friend complete the look. This figure has many great parts for a druid or ranger character, and the mushroom is perfect for a fungus leshy (a variety of tiny plant-folk available as both PCs and familiars in Pathfinder Second Edition). Mine came with an extra red cap, and a white 1x1 cylinder will serve as a body just as well as the white fez that comes with the elf.

Horse and Groom: The short legs and braces (printed on the more widely-smiling of her two faces) make it clear that this groom is meant to be a young girl. She wears clothes suitable for working--jeans, a green flannel jacket, and a knit cap, and has a carrot treat for her horse. The animal is clearly a young colt, because it only comes up to her nose. This horse's small size make it very well suited to use as the pony mount of a microfigure attached to the stud on its back (a Small rider on a Medium mount, in game terms). I will need to acquire a few more, for that alone!

Night Protector: This character's light blue skin, teal hair, and silver freckles mark her as obviously non-human. Her armor is mostly light gray (or silver), with white and purple details that continue onto the sides of her arms and legs; it also has dark pink gauntlets and a printed pink jewel on the breastplate. She bears a transparent purple sword and shield; the latter is emblazoned with a crescent moon, which also appears on her belt buckle and the back of her cuirass (though her long hair hides that one). 

The Protector's head and hair could be used for an elf, gnome, or fairy, an aquatic species like merfolk, or even a Starfinder android or alien. The armor is very nicely done, and despite the illusory waist and pink details, would work beautifully for a moon-themed character of any gender. (Mine came with an extra sword. A friend of mine traded his troubadour's spare coin [see below] for his son's spare sword.)

*Racoon Costume Fan: This character appears to use the same parts as the fox costume in Series 16--including the sack--but in new colors and a with a new print job on the mask. She comes with a standard City trash can, which should make her easier to find by feel than many others in this series. 

Robot Repair Tech: This humanoid robot's bright yellow chassis is covered in a variety of hazard symbols to warn others to keep their distance while it's working. Its head is covered with a mask like a welder's, with two cartoonish smiling eyes displayed in pixels on the front. Under the helmet is a gray head covered in printed circuitry, and a battery charge indicator on the neck that shows even when the helmet is on. Its facial features are unfortunately a bit too dorky for my taste; a less cartoonish smile would have made it perfect for a Starfinder android. 

The robot tech comes with three different attachments for its right arm: a drill, a hammer, and a robot claw. It also comes with a small, brick-built robot buddy; printing on this sidekick is limited to the  large eyes, on two separate 1x1 tiles. This tiny red robot would work nicely for a Starfinder drone, or for a small-sized SRO ("sentient robot organism," a playable construct race).

Snow Guardian: This whiskered warrior is dressed in white furs with a dark blue cap, belt, and boots. Both the legs and arms are molded in two colors, with additional printing to cover the join line with a more interesting pattern. (Trying to disguise the casting joins feels a little weird to me, but I suppose  this method reduces the amount of paint that could be worn off of single-colored parts with extended play.) The fur trim of the hat and collar are carefully modeled to almost entirely fill the gap between them in the back, and convey the frigid climate of the guardian's home even more effectively than the large snowflake printed on his shield. His longsword is (I believe) a new design, with a simple but elegant cross-guard and pommel, and a fuller along the blade. Finally, the husky is the same as the one used in Arctic-themed City sets a few years ago, but this one has a paler gray patch on its head and back and sports the breed's distinctive blue eyes.

Space Creature: This pink-skinned alien wears a purple spacesuit with the classic Space logo, but there are additional details printed on the shoulders and legs. He wears a backpack consisting of a transparent globe (a minifigure head) with a printed warning label. It's unclear whether this is a scientific specimen, a life support system, or a weapon, but the creature's ray gun is capped with a 1x1 plate in the same bilious green color. The alien's head is double-sided, with larger and smaller open mouths. It's topped by a rubber headpiece was previously used to give antennae to a bumblebee costume (Series 10) and Killer Moth (LEGO Batman Movie Minifigures Series 2) but here it has been repurposed to give the creature eyestalks. This alien would be perfect for an osharu, a humanoid slug race in Starfinder.

Troubadour: This jolly, singing fellow wears striped blue medieval garb, with a matching hat (which sports a plume in a new color for this part). He strums a lute, which is very nicely detailed, even to the tuning pegs cast on its head. This instrument has a pin on the back that can be held by a minifigure hand, but it looks just fine held across the body for strumming, as shown below. This minstrel has received a couple of gold coins (printed tiles) for his performance, and should come with an extra (for a total of 3 gp).

Wheelchair Racer: This athlete comes with a three-wheeled racing chair formed of a single body piece onto which the wheels snap. (It also comes with a 1x1 clear cylinder brick for mounting it onto the baseplate for display without rolling around.) He has a very determined looking face, with a short scruffy goatee. His arms are cast in two colors to give him short sleeves, one of which has a logo matching the one on his back. This individual is very fit, as evidenced by the muscle definition on his torso, and the medal around his neck. 

The LEGO Group released its first minifigure-scale wheelchair in 2016 (Set 60134 Fun in the Park), but this new model is available as an individual minifigure rather than as part of a large set. That's a much more affordable price point, making it easier for interested builders--with and without disabilities--to acquire. A number of wheelchair-using characters have appeared in various RPGs in recent years, and this kind of representation matters, in both toys and games, as well as other entertainment media.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Unearthed Arcana and Freeport, Part 16: In Tasha's Wake

Welcome back to my ongoing series of capsule reviews of "Unearthed Arcana" with an eye for how to use them with the Freeport setting. This column covers UA articles from October 2020 to October 2021. (None had been released in 2022 at the date of this post.)

The book which I alluded to in my last UA & Freeport post (a year and a half ago!) turned out to be Tasha's Cauldron of Everything, which I have since acquired and reviewed (Part 1; Part 2). That book incorporated nearly all of the playtest material that I reviewed in UA & Freeport, Parts 10-15, except for "Subclasses, Part 4," which appears to have missed the cut-off date for inclusion.

Note that all of the new races (or lineages) presented in UA since Tasha's was released have referred the player to the "Customizing Your Origin" rules in that book rather than dictating ability score increases, languages, and tool proficiencies.

For my past columns about using D&D Fifth Edition sourcebooks with Freeport: The City of Adventure, see the Freeport 5E Index.

Subclasses, Part 5 (10/26/2020): This installment introduces just two new subclasses, both with a dragon theme. The Way of the Ascendant Dragon allows monks to do energy damage with their unarmed strikes, and also bestows a breath weapon. Higher levels gives additional draconic abilities. The Drakewarden ranger gains the ability to summon a small drake companion. The stat block for this drake includes the ranger's proficiency bonus for its AC, good saves, and attack rolls, using the same "+PB" notation used for summoned creatures in Tasha's.

The Way of the Ascendant Dragon is very appropriate for monks from the Eastern Empire. The drakewarden is most likely from the wilds of the Continent, though the Serpent's Teeth is also home to many reptilian monsters. 

Gothic Lineages (1/26/2021): This article presents three new races with Gothic horror origins. Each lineage has two creatures types to reflect its in-between status. The text points out that if an effect would affect one of their types, it affects the character normally (so a dhampir--humanoid and undead--would be healed by cure wounds).

The dhampir is part humanoid, part undead, with a vampiric bite and a hunger for blood (or some other manifestation of life force). The hexblood has ties to hags, making them part fey, with some innate magic and advantage against charm effects. The reborn represents a variety of characters unnaturally suspended between life and death, either through surgery or implanted machinery (making them a construct) or necromantic magic (undead). In both cases, being reborn helps the character resist disease, poison, and dying.

Freeport is a horror setting, so all three lineages are appropriate there, though all remain rare. The Pathfinder RPG has rules for dhampirs and hag-descended changelings, so the dhampir and hexblood would be useful for converting those races' abilities to 5E. (Offhand, I don't recall any examples of either in Freeport canon, but they are popular with some players.)

Folk of the Feywild (3/11/2021): This article presents four races whose origins lie within the Feywild. Fairies are a small race similar to pixies or sprites, but larger. They can fly (even without wings), and cast a couple of innate spells. The version of hobgoblins presented here gives an alternative to the race traits given in Volo's Guide of Monsters, which reflected a more militaristic world-view. Owlfolk are humanoid owls with winged flight, the ability to sense magic, and the night vision and silent feathers of their owl kin; they may be Small or Medium. Rabbitfolk are humanoids with hare-like senses and reflexes, and may also be Small or Medium. The choice of size has no effect on either race's traits, but will affect things such as the ability to use heavy weapons.

(The official versions of three of these races have already been released: The owlin in Strixhaven: Curriculum of Chaos, and the fairy and harengon in The Wild Beyond the Witchlight.)

One of the defining characteristics of the Freeport setting is that the native fey of the Serpent's Teeth are almost universally reptilian in nature rather than the elf-like creatures found elsewhere. That means that these four fey races would be very rare in the City of Adventure, and they would be highly unlikely to have come here directly from the Feywild. Freeport does have an enclave of hobgoblins, but these are transplants from the Continent, and most fit that race's stereotype of regimented military training (making the traits in Volo's more appropriate).

Draconic Options (4/14/2021): This article presents several new character options manifesting draconic magic, and was obviously meant as a companion piece to "Subclasses, Part 5," above. These include three variant dragonborn races (chromatic, metallic, and gem) that provide a more direct connection between the dragonborn and the dragon type matching their scale color. The chromatic and metallic races are only superficially different from the standard PH dragonborn, but the gem dragonborn gives access to more unusual breath weapon damage types, has innate psionic telepathy, and can briefly manifest spectral gem-like wings once a day. 

A new version of the kobold race is also included, which lacks the racial Strength penalty given in Volo's (a rarity among 5E races to begin with, and entirely dispensed with if you use the "Customizing Your Origin" rules in Tasha's). This variant leans into their draconic ancestry, rather than being the cowardly pack creature presented in the MM and Volo's.

Three new feats provide some abilities of chromatic dragons (energy-infused attacks and limited resistance), metallic dragons (cure wounds and protective wings), and gem dragons (a mental stat increase and a telekinetic counterattack). Finally, the article details seven new spells. The most noteworthy of these are probably draconic transformation (giving draconic senses, flight, and a force damage breath weapon), Raulothim's psychic lance (which adds a new psionic-themed spell to the handful in Tasha's), and summon draconic spirit (which follows the format of the new summoning spells in Tasha's).

All of these options could be used in a Freeport campaign. The new version of the kobold is particularly attractive as a more heroic interpretation of that race, and dragon-themed spells will appeal to a wide variety of casters.   

Mages of Strixhaven (6/8/2021): This article presents five subclasses appropriate to the Strixhaven plane from the Magic: The Gathering multiverse. These subclasses are probably most noteworthy for the fact that each was designed to work with two or three different spellcasting classes. Because classes gain their subclass features at different levels (and give different numbers of features), these subclasses' features have a minimum level required to choose them, rather than a set level. (To my knowledge, these subclasses were not used in the final Strixhaven: Curriculum of Chaos book, probably largely due to this more complicated implementation.)

A Mage of Lorehold is a historian who bonds with an ancient companion spirit inhabiting an animated statue. A Mage of Prismari infuses their own movements with elemental energy, and specializes with a chosen energy type at later levels. A Mage of Quandrix is a mathematician who can manipulate probability. A Mage of Silverquill channels their magic through their words, demoralizing foes and bolstering allies. A Mage of Witherbloom taps into the endless cycle of life and death.

Both the Magic-specific context of these subclasses and their unusual implementation make them difficult to adapt to a Freeport campaign. A GM who wishes to make use of them would probably want to  rename or reflavor the background somewhat to match a magical college in their setting. The only such organization that receives much attention in the Freeport product line is the Wizard's Guild, which has a much more secretive, even sinister, reputation than Strixhaven's more genuinely collegiate atmosphere. A school on the Continent (like the Arcane Blade Academy I mentioned in connection with bladesingers in Part 1 of "Tasha's Cauldron and Freeport") is likely a better choice, despite the lack of details.

Travelers of the Multiverse (10/8/2021): This installment presents six new races for 5E, all of which fit a planar traveler theme. Astral elves are descended from elves who left the Feywild to be closer to the homes of their gods. Autognomes are constructs built in their rock gnome creators' image. Giffs are tall, powerfully built humanoids with hippo-like heads. Hadozees are simians with feet that are as dexterous as hands, and gliding flaps between their limbs. Plasmoids are intelligent oozes who can mimic a humanoid form well enough to use other races' equipment. Thri-kreen are insectoids with telepathic and chameleon abilities.

Most of these races have appeared in past editions of the D&D game, though not necessarily as playable PC races. The hadozee and giff (and possibly autognomes?) originated in the Spelljammer setting, which has caused quite a bit of speculation about whether Wizards is planning a full setting book for this edition. Thri-kreen have been part of D&D at least since the the AD&D 2E Monster Manual II, and featured prominently in the Dark Sun setting. Three of the races have also reminded me of TSR's Star Frontiers game: the hadozee, plasmoid, and thri-kreen could easily be used to convert that game's yazirians, dralasites, and vrusk to D&D 5E.

Determining how many of these races are appropriate for a Freeport campaign depends in part how much travel between worlds and planes the GM feels is appropriate for their game. The 3E book Stormwrack presented the hadozee as a race most commonly found aboard ships, with all references to the Spelljammer setting removed. (It was this version that I allowed for one of the PCs in my last Freeport campaign, so I'm very pleased to see 5E stats for them.) The thri-kreen could be native to another continent--perhaps the forests of Rolland or the arid lands of Hamunaptra. The astral elf, giff, and plasmoid would probably be rare in a world without spelljamming ships or frequent planar travel. On the other hand, the giff have always been associated with firearms, and often find work as mercenaries, both of which provide reasons for encountering them as exotic troops passing through Freeport.